Women in low-income homes have less access to preventative health care – and are more likely to give up on work

A study of 10,650 females in the UK found those with a combined household income of up to £25,000 per annum are less health literate and are less likely to attend health screenings or vaccination invitations.

In fact, one in 10 have never had health issues such as blood pressure or cervical cancer checked, compared to just five per cent of those in a household earning more than £40,000 per annum.

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With 15 per cent of lower earners who do not take up offers of preventative healthcare feeling it’s not needed.

They are also the least able to talk to and understand healthcare professionals (72 per cent, compared to 81 per cent of high-income households) and least likely to know where to access health information (79 per cent compared to 89 per cent of high-income households).

Although 75 per cent feel informed about what is needed to be healthy, this rises to 88 per cent of those in high-income households.

It also emerged 30 per cent of low earners who experience daily pain, such as joint pain, backaches or headaches, have stopped work completely as a result, compared to just 10 per cent of high-income households.

The study was commissioned by Hologic, an innovator in women’s health, which has also launched year two of its Global Women’s Health Index in partnership with analytics firm, Gallup.

It aims to capture the experiences of women when it comes to women’s health, covering preventive care, basic needs, opinions of health and safety, individual health and emotional health in a bid to help fill a critical gap in what the world knows about the health and well-being of the world’s women and girls.

The Index assigns a women’s health score (from one to 100) to each of 122 countries and territories, with the average global score at only 53, and no country or territory scoring higher than 70.

In 2021, the overall score for the UK dropped 3 points and it now scores 60 out of 100.

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Tim Simpson, general manager, Hologic UK & Ireland, said: “Your level of wealth shouldn’t impact your access to diagnosis and treatment but the new research shows it does

“Women are the cornerstone of families, communities and economies and more must be done to tackle the stark health inequalities they face across the UK.”

Better support for women's health

The additional research, conducted via OnePoll, into women’s health in the UK also found women in low-income households are the least likely to contact their GP if they have a health issue (40 per cent compared to 46 per cent of high-income households).

In fact, two-thirds of all the women polled are currently suffering with some form of physical medical condition, but these ailments have had a greater impact on those with a lower household income.

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of females in low-income households suffering from health problems find themselves having to change social plans as a result of their issues.

Others said their friendships have been impacted (20 per cent), as well as relationships with family (19 per cent).

Among the ailments low earners versus women from high-income households are more likely to suffer from are mental health conditions (32 per cent vs 26 per cent), digestive problems (11 per cent vs nine per cent) and cancer (seven per cent vs five per cent).

The research also found 24 per cent of those with medical problems in low-income households aren’t able to afford exercise, such as gym memberships or use of swimming facilities.

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While 21 per cent don’t have enough money to cover the cost of nutritious food, and 13 per cent even struggle to afford to take time off work to attend healthcare appointments.

Furthermore, 35 per cent of these women are feeling lonely - more so than those in higher earning households (31 per cent).

Tim Simpson for Hologic added: “We’ve seen more than ever the importance of preventative care, and this must be a core component to better support women’s health.

“At a time of economic uncertainty for so many, we need to take into account the barriers women face, to ensure that all women have equal access to the treatment and care to keep them healthy.

“Through our Global Women’s Health Index we will continue to measure the state of women’s health in the UK and around the world, so we can address health inequalities faced by so many and drive urgent change.”

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